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July 15, 2021 | TWC Insider

Join Us at TWC as We Begin Paying It Forward

In 1991, I was a young graduate student studying to be a teacher, and I thought I was pretty poor. I ate a lot of noodles and thought myself lucky when I could sneak food items from the “damaged goods” box at my place of employment (we sold peanuts and hams so the pickings were pretty limited). I took whatever small jobs I could, but looking back, I was never hungry, and I always knew where I would lay my head.

About halfway through the first of two years in the program, I accepted a volunteer opportunity at a small school in a very poor district not far from my college. My role was to work with fifth grade students who had fallen behind in math. To say that my five students were less than enthusiastic about working with me would be an understatement. After all, who wants to do more of something they’re not good at?

I was young and enthusiastic and was sure that I could fill all the gaps for these students in no time at all. But what I quickly learned was that these students were hungry…not for math but for food. They were tired. They were discouraged. And they were very, very poor.

I poured myself into creating engaging games to help them master their multiplication facts. We played board games that I made on the weekends. We played modified basketball games that didn’t actually require a court (because the school didn’t have one). We played with lots of dice and playing cards.

I’d like to think that my efforts made a big difference in their math skills, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t true. Did the students have some fun? Yes. Did they build social skills along the way? Probably. Did they come to like me? They did. And when my tenure was done at the end of their school year, they gave me a plant that had precisely three, wilted leaves. I had no idea where they found it, but I was sure someone was missing a plant that they never watered.

Even if my students didn’t learn as much from me as I’d hoped, I learned a lesson that has stayed with me: Being poor has a big impact on learning. Huge, actually.

Many children in our schools struggle with poverty. It’s pervasive. Even in our local community, one that appears on the surface to be quite wealthy, many children are hungry. But there are organizations and people here who work tirelessly to help these children. And I’m thrilled that TWC is focused on supporting this work.

Starting this Friday, July 16, we’re collecting school supplies to support the Hill Country Community Needs Council’s Backpacks for Kids program. This annual program provides hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies to local children. Depending on the grade level of the child receiving it, each backpack is filled with some or all of the following:

Backpack (no wheels)
Notebook paper (wide rule)
Binders, 3 ring (1.5” and 2” sizes)
Pencil sharpeners (with shaving collector)
Pocket folders with brads (all colors)
Subject dividers (plastic with pockets)
Pens (black, blue, red)
Crayola Crayons (regular and twist up)
Highlighters (any color)
Crayola colored pencils (regular and twist up)
Pink pearl erasers
Crayola watercolors
Spiral notebook (wide rule, 70 pages)
Crayola markers (classic broad line)
5 subject spiral notebooks
Expo dry-erase markers (all colors)
Composition notebooks
Glue sticks
Elmer’s glue (4 oz.)
Scissors (pointed and rounded tip)


Here’s how you can get involved: If you bring $20 worth of items from the list or $20 cash to TWC starting Friday, July 16 and going through Sunday, July 25, you’ll be entered into a special drawing to win a TWC gift basket of great TWC stuff (including wine!).

On the last day of this giving event, Sunday, July 25, we’ll donate 15% of our wine sales for the day to the Hill Country Community Needs Council’s Backpacks for Kids program. This is just one of several “paying it forward” initiatives were starting here at the Collective, and we hope you’ll join in the giving fun.

To learn more about the Hill Country Community Needs Council, please visit their website at https://needscouncil.org. This organization provides support for many in our community.

And by the way, I still have that plant.


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